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Democrat Doug Owens has banked nearly $500,000 for his rematch against Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah, in what is expected to be one of the more competitive 2016 showdowns in the state.

Owens' campaign released its year-end fundraising total Monday, nearly a week early, a sign the candidate is proud of his haul.

"I learned last time what it takes to win," said Owens. "You have to get your message out, and our message is an important one."

He said the theme of his campaign will be a focus on middle-class families, boosting wages so that it is not a requirement to have two incomes to stay afloat.

Since announcing his second congressional campaign in the middle of 2015, Owens, an attorney, has spent much of his time raising money, hoping to lessen Love's fundraising lead. Love won in 2014 by a little more than 5 percentage points, and in that 4th Congressional District contest she had a roughly $4 million advantage.

From October through the end of 2015, Owens raised $349,700 and he had a total of $499,500 in the bank, leaving him in a much stronger position to increase his staff or pay for early TV ads than he was in his first race. He received contributions from some labor unions, fellow lawyers and prominent Utah families including the Cummings, Dumkes, Marquardts and Steiners, not to mention a few donations from his family.

He said his TV ads won't appear anytime soon, but he is planning a strategy to reach out to voters on a grassroots level. He won't be collecting signatures to get on the primary ballot, instead he'll go through the traditional convention route because he doesn't believe he'll have a challenger on the Democratic side.

Love's campaign declined to comment on Owens' fundraising total. Love's report is not yet public. The deadline is Jan. 31. She's been one of the best fundraisers in Congress, relying on nationwide campaign mailers that highlight her status as the first black Republican woman in Congress. Owens' campaign has no expectation of besting her in fundraising, instead the goal is to have enough money to counter her campaign advertising.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is backing Owens early in this race, after having almost no impact in 2014. The Cook Political Report, a respected handicapper of congressional elections, put Utah's 4th District contest in the "lean Republican" category, largely because of the demographics of the district that includes parts of western Salt Lake and Utah counties and parts of central Utah. The district is 16 percentage points more Republican than the national average.